I started this blog exactly two years ago – sitting in a hotel room in the Zuri hotel in Bangalore, India. I remember the hotel room vividly – the curtains, the desk, the chairs in the room. Since that trip, I’ve been on probably 10-15 other business trips in the US, however I have a harder time remembering what those hotels looked like.

One of Maya Angelou’s often cited quotes is this: “I’ve learned that people will forget what you said, people will forget what you did, but people will never forget how you made them feel.”  While she was speaking about how we remember other people, I think the idea of feelings affecting your memory of a person can also be applied to how we remember things like hotel rooms. I probably remember the hotel room in India much more clearly than a more recent stay in Washington DC, because of how I was feeling at the time. My feelings in India were excitement and anticipation of being in a new country. I was meeting new people, seeing new places and doing things I had never done before. My feelings when staying in DC were not necessarily bad, there was just not the heightened emotions during a routine business trip.

Outside of our internal recollections, external triggers can cause us to remember something clearly all of a sudden, such as:

  • Seeing a photograph of some place you knew or visited a long time ago;
  • Running into an old friend. Memories can be triggered just by seeing someone’s face that you have not in a while or by hearing them talk about something that you both experienced in the past; or
  • Talking to someone who is experiencing something in their life now that is very similar to something you experienced in the past. While they are not talking about your past experience, their current situation can bring back memories of how you felt when in the similar situation.

I really enjoy having an unexpected memory trigger.  That is because I think our own memories largely support our view of ourselves, so they can be somewhat limited and narrowly focused. I consider myself to be a math/numbers person, so my memories of elementary school are, unsurprisingly weighted towards different math related lessons and games my teachers played with us. On my own, I didn’t have much memories about my elementary school music classes, I’m guessing because they did not involve a lot of math. On Facebook, I recently exchanged messages with an old classmate of mine, who spurred a memory of a class with my music teacher, Mrs. Solomon. This friend quoted part of the lyrics to a song we sang probably in 2nd or 3rd grade. When I read her post, suddenly I remembered not just the words she had typed, but I could hear the tune to the song in my head — what a fun and completely unexpected memory!

Like most people, my memories seem to get a little fuzzier as I get older. Part of my reason for this blog is to record my memories of things like my trip to India. It is also a place to just write what I’m thinking about – my random thoughts. Hope these random thoughts have triggered unexpected (and hopefully good) memories for you also.






2 thoughts on “Memories

  1. George Friesen

    No, the experiences that stick with us are never “stupid”. They have so impressed us that they become an indelible part of the way we think and feel. This is a really interesting reflection on the role of memory in life.

  2. Sean

    That’s a nice post. Sometimes memories are great, other times not so much. But I guess that’s where the gift of time comes into play. Memories become less what they actually were, and eventually are shaped more by one’s perspective of the experience than the experience itself.

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